Spring in the Macedon Ranges with Stephen Ryan – October 2021

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19 Oct – 22 Oct 2021

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Spring in the Macedon Ranges with Stephen Ryan – October 2021
Tour Highlights

  • A unique opportunity to spend 4 days with horticulturalist and plantsman, Stephen Ryan, exploring the spectacular gardens of the Macedon Ranges in Spring. Stephen is both the President of the Mt Macedon Horticultural Society, one of Victoria’s oldest garden clubs, and most recently was appointed Patron for the Royal Horticultural Society of Victoria (RHSV).
  • Enjoy Mt Macedon’s gardens during spring which features daffodils and blossom, lilac and roses, rhododendron and viburnum.
  • Gain access to a number of private gardens several of which are rarely open to the public, Stephen’s own garden, Tugurium, and a number of Mt Macedon’s spectacular 19th-century ‘hill station’ gardens.
  • Discover the formal garden ‘rooms’ and exuberant plantings of Andrew Lowth and Nigel Smith’s romantic Bank House Newlyn.
  • Explore four hectares of established gardens at the historic working cattle property, Bolobek, and spend time with owner Brigid Robertson.
  • View the fine design with colourful and bountiful gardens at Lambley Nursery, David Glenn’s display and trial garden.
  • Meet Simon Rickard at his private garden in Trentham which has been featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia.
  • Dine at the Midnight Starling, Kyneton, operated by chef Steve Rogers, an alumni of restaurant Jacques Reymond.
  • Enjoy 3 nights at the Cleveland Winery, a welcoming retreat with a backdrop of gardens and vineyards outside of historic Lancefield.

Hill Stations of Mt Macedon
In the late 19th-century Mt Macedon became the region in which to establish a number of ‘Hill Stations’ or summer residences for the then Governors and their key staff. Standing at an elevation of 1101 metres, Mt Macedon provided a much cooler climate than Melbourne. This tour explores a selection of Hill Station gardens for which Mt Macedon is rightly famous; the National Trust has stated that this area has the largest concentration of such gardens anywhere in Australia. Most properties were established in the late 1800s and so predate federation. What are Hill Station gardens? They are usually large properties with substantial homes built by the wealthy of colonial Melbourne to escape the summer heat of the city, much like those of the British Raj in the foot hills of the Himalayas. They were playgrounds that would unashamedly show off the wealth and power of their owners who happily competed with each other to own the grandest house with the rarest plants. We now live with this amazing legacy.



The following itinerary describes a range of gardens which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary, together with their tour documents, prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast, lunches & dinners indicated in the itinerary where B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner.

Lancefield - 3 nights

Day 1: Tuesday 19 October, Melbourne – Mt Macedon – Lancefield

Meeting Point: 38 Huntingtower Road, Armadale at 8.30am.

We leave Melbourne for the green heart of the Macedon Ranges to visit Duneira Estate which includes an 1875-historic Victorian homestead set in 16 acres at an altitude of 820 metres. The English style gardens which are considered to be of ‘outstanding cultural significance’ by the National Trust of Australia, include a sequence of walled gardens, rolling lawns and several trees listed on the Register of Significant trees of Victoria. The Elm Avenue is referred to as  ‘one of the best surviving examples of a private formal avenue in Victoria’ and feature Dutch Elms which date back to the planting period of Suetonius Officer in the 1870s. In spring the rhododendrons and azaleas are spectacular and large plantings of Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) provide a soft touch of lavender-blue colour to the garden.

Nearby we visit Shepherd’s Bush which is now home to Kevin Edwards, the Treasurer for the Mt Macedon District Horticultural Society and his partner Chris Williams who is the head gardener of Bolobek. Situated at 865 metres above sea level, this is the highest main residence on Mt Macedon. The 3-acre garden which is known for its spring and autumn display, includes European and North American plants.

Lunch will be hosted by the Mt Macedon & District Horticultural Society at their hall which is located at the Mt Macedon Golf Club.

The gardens at Caelum were originally created in 1994 by landscape designer Grant Saltmarsh and have been nurtured by former owners Margaret and Mal Pisaro. This 0.6 hectare garden includes a sunken garden, caged vegetable garden, and meandering paths flanked by perennial beds and mature fruit trees. A highlight is the large stone fountain with its attendant formal gardens. We also view rare and unusual plants and trees influenced by Stephen Ryan and Dicksonia Rare Plants nursery that thrive in the micro-climates of the garden. The current owners have kept up this relationship and the plant palette is broadening with horticulturally important new plantings.

We end the day with a visit to Glen Rannock. Dating back to 1873, this is the third oldest hill station in Mt Macedon. The name ‘Glen Rannoch’ means fern or bracken which has relevance to its location on the ridge. The garden features massive Monkey Puzzles, Hoheria, and Western Hemlock which are listed on the National Trust Register of Significant Trees. There are also grand Atlantic Cedars, beeches, poplars, maples, chestnuts and a green-flowering cherry tree, as well as impressive flowering shrubs such as rhododendrons, azaleas, viburnums and Stewartia (to name a few) which line moss-covered steps and paths leading to various garden rooms and outbuildings. On a clear day you can see the You Yangs in the distance from above the garden in the lookout.

We arrive at the Cleveland Winery in the late afternoon and following some time at leisure enjoy a welcome dinner at the winery’s restaurant. (Overnight Cleveland Winery, Lancefield) LD

Day 2: Wednesday 20 October, Lancefield – Ascot – Newlyn – Trentham – Lancefield

This morning we visit Lambley Nursery in Ascot, home of horticulturalist David Glenn and his wife, artist Criss Canning. Their gardens have been created around an old farmhouse. David has learnt to work with Ballarat’s harsh climate and has transformed barren paddocks into beautifully designed spaces, overflowing with colour and structure. The striking dry garden, which is watered no more than four times a year, will supply inspiration to those gardening with limited water. David is a plant breeder; his best known release is Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’. He also trials flowers, fruits and vegetables which are on display in his bountiful edible garden.

Following a picnic lunch, a leisurely drive brings us to Bank House Newlyn. Bank House once served as the National Bank of Australasia’s Newlyn branch, but now, the historic weatherboard cottage is a country home set in an extraordinary garden. Andrew Lowth and Nigel Smith, with a nod to English landscape and perennial gardening, have created a series of ‘outdoor rooms’, combining formal structure and exuberant and rare plantings in a romantic garden design. Behind the house, a gentle slope leads to a series of surprises concealed behind hedges of hornbeam, privet and japonica. Formal allées are juxtaposed with woodland glades and walks, a meadow garden and a lush, ornamental vegetable garden.

Next we travel to Trentham to visit the private gardens of Simon Rickard. Simon’s home garden was never intended for public display. It was conceived as a private space where he could test new ideas, plants, and combinations before foisting them on his unsuspecting clients, as well as indulging his plantsman’s love of the rare and unusual. Simon’s challenge has been to cobble these eclectic tastes into something coherent and beautiful.

Tonight we enjoy another group meal at the Cleveland Winery Restaurant. (Overnight Cleveland Winery, Lancefield) BLD

Day 3: Thursday 21 October, Lancefield – Mt Macedon – Kyneton – Lancefield
  • Alton
  • Bolobek, a historic garden with designer flair: visit with owner Brigid Robertson
  • Ard Choille Heritage Garden
  • Farewell Dinner at the Midnight Starling, Kyneton

Today is devoted to exploring more of Mt Macedon’s finest terraced hill stations. We begin this morning with a tour of Alton, an 1870s Mt Macedon garden which surrounds a Venetian Gothic home, known as the gingerbread house. Established by Sir George Verdon, at various times Victoria’s treasurer and Agent General, it is considered one of the finest terraced hill stations in the region. The garden features an amazing collection of over 600 trees of which 24 are listed on the National Trust Register of Significant Trees including the towering Sitka Spruce or Picea sitchensis which comes from the Pacific north-west and Canada. There is also an English garden influenced by noted Royal Botanic Gardens directors Baron von Mueller and W. R. Guilfoyle. At this time the deciduous trees should be spectacular and include am impressive collection of maples as well as oaks and beech.

Next, we meet Brigid Robertson, who bought Bolobek, a historic working cattle property, with husband Hugh in 2006. This garden was laid out in the early 1900s and today demonstrates how a creative design style can be overlaid on an earlier garden landscape. Bolobek is on the Victorian Heritage Register because of the quality of its design, artistry and plantings. Brigid will share stories of the people that made the garden and we’ll admire its geometric design, which focuses on attractive bark, soft green foliage and white flowers. This romantic, tranquil garden has abundant separate sitting spaces, with woodland, herbaceous borders, circles of lilacs and roses, arches planted with roses and clematis, and rhododendrons. We will meander through these distinctive spaces, over mossy steps and along winding lawn paths that lead us through bulb-filled woodlands carpeted with crocus, naturalised cyclamens, hellebores, snowdrops, daffodils and jonquils. The flowering reaches its crescendo with a vast carpet of bluebells. We will enjoy lunch on arrival and then take a tour of the gardens.

On the northern side of Mt Macedon, we visit Ard Choille, an 1890s hill station established by William MacGregor (who was a founding shareholder of BHP) which is both botanically and historically one of the most renowned gardens in the region. This inspirational 19th-century garden, which has taken full advantage of the unique cool climate of the Macedon Ranges, features a huge array of exotic trees and shrubs. Our horticultural walk takes us past sweeping lawns, ornamental lakes and along stone steps where we may explore the many and varied garden rooms. At the top of the gardens we may view the fine and rare 19th-century metal shade house which has been classified by the National Trust, and catch a glimpse of Hanging Rock in the distance.

In the summer of 1901, Frederick McCubbin purchased ‘Fontainebleau’ which lay immediately below Ard Choille. The house, garden and surrounding bushland subsequently became one of his major painting grounds. It was here that he produced such works as The Pioneer (1904), a triptych whose second panel includes a small cottage located at Ard Choille. The pond of Ard Choille, named Lake Strathmore, is also featured in Frederick McCubbins’ painting Afterglow (1912) which is held at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Natural bush seen in the painting still surrounds much of Ard Choille.

This evening we enjoy a farewell meal at the Midnight Starling, Kyneton. Operated by chef Steve Rogers, an alumni of restaurant Jacques Reymond, this fine dining restaurant taps into the French tradition of flavoursome food.  (Overnight Cleveland Winery, Lancefield) BLD

Day 4: Friday 22 October, Lancefield – Mt Macedon – Melbourne
  • Durrol Garden
  • Cameron Lodge
  • Tugurium
  • Lisnacrieve
  • Dicksonia Rare Plants

This morning we visit Durrol, another of Mt Macedon’s stately hill stations whose 1901 Edwardian weatherboard residence was razed to the ground by fire in 2018 but a new home on the same footprint and with a similar style has been reinstated. The property itself dates back to 1854 when it was purchased by Charles Barns Boatman. It was later developed and named ‘Durrol’, by the then Melbourne Stock Exchange chairman, William Foster Wood and his wife Clara, before being sold to Stanley Allen in 1919 and still belongs to his daughter! The gardens, which are considered of National significance, were designed by the great 20th-century landscape designer Edna Walling for Mrs Stanley Allen in 1925 and feature typical elements such as axial planning, stone paving, circular gardens, rectangular pools, softened by herbaceous plants and hedged boundaries. There is a wonderful balance between this intensively maintained garden and the surrounding open bushland. 

In 1916 William Cameron, a director of British American Tobacco, established his retreat, Cameron Lodge, with gardens inspired by the Romantic models that were fashionable in Europe. He also erected the memorial Cross on the top of Mt Macedon with his own money to give locals work through the depression and to commemorate the dead of the Great War, it was viewable from his study! The Romantic allusions were further enhanced by the gentle mountain stream, Turritable, which runs through the estate. We will tour this magnificent 10-acre colonial garden which features an original summer pavilion, a Temple of Winds designed by Joan Anderson in 1932, and Roman baths in its lower garden.

Next we visit Tugurium, Stephen Ryan’s own garden which he developed from a vacant burnt block after the Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983. Over the years he has created soil and added mulch to establish an informal garden. The garden is a culmination of decades spent collecting plants and placing them in stimulating combinations of foliage, texture and colour. The garden features winding paths that will take you through woodland plantings, two large and one small tranquil pools and circular lawn, with a small orchard and nearby vegetable garden rounding out the space. Craig Lidgerwood’s stunning botanic art will also be on display.

Following lunch at Tugurium we visit the private gardens of Lisnacrieve, situated in the golden mile and offering commanding views of Mt Macedon and the Memorial Cross. The gardens feature sweeping lawns, deciduous rhododendrons and extensive woodland plantings. The cascading Turritiable Creek borders the lower garden.  

Before returning to Melbourne we visit Stephen Ryan’s rare plant business, Dicksonia Rare Plants, which displays over 2000 different plants from tiny bulbs, desirable climbers, as well as icon shrubs and trees from all over the world.

We are scheduled to arrive back in Melbourne at approximately 5.30pm where our tour ends. BL



Accommodation at the winery includes rooms with en suite bathroom.

  • Lancefield (3 nights): 3-star Cleveland Winery – a welcoming retreat with a backdrop of gardens and vineyards, located 2 kilometres from the township of Lancefield. www.clevelandwinery.com.au

Note: Hotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a double/twin room for single occupancy throughout the tour. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

How to book

How to Book


Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $500.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Passport Details

All participants must provide no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the program a photocopy of the front page of their current passport.

Practical Information

Practical Information

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 4-day Garden Tour of the Macedon Region involves:

  • A moderate amount of walking often up and down hills and/or flights of stairs and uneven terrain.
  • A moderate amount of coach travel, sometimes on winding mountainous roads.
  • The daily schedule generally involves an early-morning departure (between 8.00-8.30am), concluding in the late afternoon (between 5.00-5.30pm).
  • Accommodation for 3 nights at the 3-star Cleveland Winery in Lancefield.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage only includes 1 piece of luggage per person.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on weather, clothing and what to pack.

Tour Price & Inclusions

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $2450.00 Land Content Only

AUD $380.00 Single Supplement

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities at the Cleveland Winery, Lancefield
  • Meals as indicated in the tour itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=dinner
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Entrance fees
  • Use of audio headsets for site excursions
  • Tips for the coach driver and restaurants for included meals
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Personal spending money
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance
Tour Map

Tour Map

Terms & Conditions

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: $500.00**
  • 75-46 days prior 25% of total amount due
  • 45-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-15 days prior 75% of total amount due
  • 14-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**This amount may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply.

We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions or services of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products, services, terms and conditions. If a service provider cancels or does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, and does not give a refund, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA.

ASA will not be liable for any claim (e.g. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, border closures, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any tour service provider or authority however caused (contingencies). You must take out such travel insurance as is available against such contingencies.

ASA’s liability in respect of any tour cancelled or changed will be limited to the partial refund of amounts you have paid, less an administration fee of $500 and other costs and charges of third party service providers. No compensation will be payable to you by ASA where ASA cancels or changes a tour, or any part of a tour.

ASA reserves the sole discretion to cancel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate and in the best interests of health, safety and wellbeing of tour participants. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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